Fuji has done a great job with its X lens line, first introducing prime lenses and then following up with some zooms later. This basically showed that Fuji’s target market was professionals and enthusiasts who were looking for a serious mirrorless system. I had the pleasure of shooting with all three initially launched lenses and I have recently received every Fuji X lens for proper testing. In addition, I have also been shooting with the new Zeiss Touit lenses (a number of newly uploaded images in this review are from the Zeiss lenses). So far, my experience has been very positive on the entire line of Fuji and Zeiss lenses.
Having gone through a couple of weddings and portrait shoots, a true portrait lens is something I missed. While the 35mm f/1.4 and the 60mm f/2.4 macro are great, I would love to see a fast f/1.2-1.4 prime in the 50mm+ range for portraiture. The good news is, looks like such lens is coming next year (Fujinon 56mm f/1.2), which will fill a big hole for many pros that want to shoot with the Fuji X line professionally.
Being a more budget version of the X-Pro1, the X-E1 does not have the same hybrid optical (OVF) / electronic (EVF) viewfinder – Fuji decided to go with just a high-resolution EVF instead. At first, this might sound like a downgrade, however, if you look up the specs on the EVF on both the X-Pro1 and the X-E1, you will notice that there is a resolution difference between the two. The X-Pro1 has a 1.44 megapixel EVF, while the X-E1 has a 2.36 megapixel EVF. Hence, Fuji tried to compensate for the loss of the hybrid viewfinder with the gain in resolution. Is the resolution difference very noticeable? I experimented with EVF on both cameras for a while and to be honest, I cannot see a huge difference. The EVF on the X-E1 seems to be more saturated with perhaps a little more detail, but it is not something very obvious. The EVF on the X-E1 also showed some strange interlacing and moire patterns when looking at fine patterns, while the lower resolution X-Pro1 seemed to handle those a little better. It probably has something to do with the higher resolution screen on the X-E1.
Metering and Exposure
While the Fuji X-E1 does not have a sophisticated meter as the latest generation Nikon and Canon cameras, it actually works surprisingly well in most situations. The camera does have a tendency to overexpose and underexpose in unusual lighting situations, but that happens even with advanced DSLRs, so it is not anything unusual. Gladly, the exposure compensation dial is right there on the top of the camera, so altering the exposure is a very straightforward process.
If you are a Nikon shooter, you will notice odd behavior on the Fuji, similar to what you see on Sony cameras as well – when the shutter is half-pressed, metering gets locked by the camera. Trying to rotate the aperture on the lens or moving the exposure compensation dial will do nothing and the exposure will remain locked. The only thing you can do is release the shutter, then adjust your exposure, then half-press again to get a different meter reading. On Nikon DSLRs, once you half-press the shutter, you can still continue to adjust the exposure and the meter will continue to adjust automatically. This is not a big problem for me, since I do not mind releasing the shutter and half-pressing it again, but it might annoy others that are used to the DSLR way of things.
Shooting Speed (FPS) and Battery Life
The Fuji X-E1 is a pretty fast camera that can shoot at 6 frames per second – the same speed as the X-Pro1. The good news is that when the camera is shot in burst mode, memory card write processes do not freeze the camera as it did before on the initial firmware releases. If you want fast writes, make sure to get a really fast SD card. I used some 45 MB/sec class 10 SD cards and there was definitely noticeable difference between those and SanDisk Extreme Pro 95 MB/sec cards. When shooting in bursts, Fine JPEG images will shoot approximately 16-18 images before the buffer gets full, so the buffer size on both the X-E1 and X-Pro1 seems to be the same. It then takes approximately 10 seconds for the buffer to clear out and memory writes complete. If you shoot in RAW, the buffer will fill up at about 12-14 images and takes good 20+ seconds to clear out. These numbers are based on approximate calculations using the fastest SanDisk Extreme Pro SDHC 95 MB/sec cards. Slower cards will take even longer to empty the camera buffer.
In terms of battery life, the X-E1 specs state 350 frames before the battery runs out, which is in line with other mirrorless cameras and more than what you would get on the X-Pro1 (rated at 300 frames).
Video / Movie Recording
It seems like all modern digital cameras are coming out with movie recording options and the Fuji X-E1 is not an exception. It can record either 720p or 1080p high-definition video at 24 fps with stereo sound and offers some control of exposure before recording (not during). Unlike DSLRs that have to have their mirrors flipped up, which limits viewing of video recording only on the camera LCD, the Fuji X-E1 can display recorded video both on its rear LCD and inside the electronic viewfinder. You can choose the desired aperture, adjust exposure compensation and a few other camera settings, but you cannot adjust the shutter speed and ISO – those are chosen automatically by the camera based on the camera meter reading.
One major difference between the X-E1 and the X-Pro1 for those interested in video features is the external mic connectivity – the X-E1 comes with an input on the side of the camera. Not sure why Fuji goofed up with this important feature on the X-Pro1 (I bet they will incorporate it on the upcoming X-Pro2). Because there is no dedicated button or switch for recording videos (another oversight), you have to go into the camera menu and change the drive mode from stills to movie and vice versa. From that standpoint, the new Fuji X-M1 is better, since it has a dedicated video record button. In addition, there is no support for capturing images while recording a video. The really slow manual focus adjustment through lenses is frustrating when recording anything that moves relatively fast. Lastly, subject tracking in AF-C / Continuous mode is also a source of frustration, not only because of a single-center focus point but also because tracking is very slow.
Just like all other Fuji X series cameras, the X-E1 comes with a standard size hot shoe that can be used with Fuji’s flashes such as EF-20, EF-X20, EF-42 and third party flashes and radio triggers such as PocketWizard Plus III. The X-E1 lacks the PC sync port on the side of the camera, but it won’t be a major issue for many of us that like to use an external flash. I have used the X-E1 with my Nikon speedlights and PocketWizard triggers and it performed very well. The only downside is the sync speed, which is limited to 1/180 of a second. The X100 and X100s are amazing in this regard, thanks to their leaf shutter mechanism that sync at much faster speeds.
For me, having a standard hotshoe is a big plus, since I work in studio environments quite a bit. Here are some sample images taken with external flash using the X-E1:
When it comes to dynamic range, from what I can tell from the JPEG images, the new X-Trans CMOS sensor seems to deliver good dynamic range in photographs at even high ISO levels. It is no Nikon D800, but you can still recover plenty of details from the shadow areas without adding too much noise. I have been waiting for test results from DxOMark, but they have not released any information on any of the new Fuji mirrorless cameras with the X-Trans sensor, probably due to RAW file support issues.
See the next page for Fuji X-Pro1 / X-E1 ISO performance, along with comparisons to Nikon D800, Canon 5D Mark III and Olympus OM-D E-M5.
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